Soccer district tournaments don’t get under way until next week, but Kickapoo’s clash with Glendale on Wednesday night at Pottenger Stadium had the feel of a playoff game.
Tight defense, limited scoring opportunities and one seized opportunity leading to the game-winning goal.
In this case it was Kasey Opfer, who drew a foul in the Kickapoo box and stuck home the penalty kick to give the eighth-ranked Lady Falcons a 1-0 win over their rivals.
“Give a lot of credit to Kickapoo,” Glendale coach Jeff Rogers said. “They didn’t make it easy on us, and I knew they wouldn’t. Their kids always play hard and play with pride. Goals this time of year are tough to come by, so we’ll take the win, finish the regular season and move on to next week.”
Glendale (16-4 overall, 9-0 Ozark Conference) controlled the run of play most of the night, but some crisp defending on the back line and a handful of saves by Kickapoo goalie Molly Wassam kept the score level until midway through the second half.
That’s when a through ball sent Opfer on a run into the Kickapoo box. The sophomore midfielder hit the turf while surrounded by several Lady Chiefs, and the referee’s assistant on the play immediately waved his flag to signal a penalty.
Opfer took the PK for Glendale, slotting it home into the bottom-right corner for the game’s only goal.
“We were just having trouble finishing,” Opfer said. “We were connecting really well and creating lots of chances. I just saw an opportunity to finish and took it. I felt like I needed to finish it. I just try to relax and do what I can to put it in the net.”
Kickapoo fell to 8-11 overall and 5-4 in the OC with the loss.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time, and I told the girls that after the game,” Kickapoo coach Phil Hodge said. “It’s kind of been a bumpy road through the regular season, but if there’s ever a time to play your best it’s the last week of the regular season and heading into districts. Tonight we battled for 80 minutes and I’m proud of our girls’ effort.”
Both teams are the top seeds in their district tournaments next week. Glendale travels to Nixa for the Class 3 District 11 Tournament. They play fourth seed Branson at 5 p.m. Tuesday and, with a win, would take on either Nixa or Ozark for the title. The Lady Falcons are 2-0 against district competition.
“If you look at district tournaments around the state, I don’t think ours is any different,” Rogers said. “There are some very good teams that aren’t going to make it out. We’ve got one of those districts that, whoever makes it out, could make a good showing. You can’t overlook anyone this time of year. If you do, you’ll end your season.”
Kickapoo, meanwhile, hosts District 12. The Lady Chiefs take on fourth seed Joplin, also at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Parkview and Glendale square off in the other semifinal. Kickapoo is unbeaten against district foes, including a 5-0 win over Joplin on April 16.